Who hasn’t wondered if he is earning a fair wage? Or, if the newly hired, recent college graduate is making as much as-or more than-he is? Short of outright asking your colleagues the size of their paychecks, there are few places to find the earning potential of the quality professional.

Quality Magazine’s 7th Annual State of the Profession Survey is one place where quality professionals can see what they, and their colleagues, are worth to their employers. Turn to page 56 to get a glimpse into the minds of quality professionals.

This year’s survey reveals that quality professionals take home an average of $76,207 annually. While salaries vary based on such factors as job titles, years of experience and size of company, one thing is certain-the higher the level of education one obtains, the more he will earn. Respondents with a high school diploma average $55,837 annually, while those with a Ph.D. bring home an average of $111,500. Possessing a doctorate’s is the exception; most respondents have a bachelor’s degree and earn an average annual salary of $81,125. Not taking into account any other factors, the difference between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree over 40 years is $1.01 million.

But it isn’t all about the money. When asked what is the most important attribute in their current job, salary finished fourth. A good relationship with work colleagues was listed as the third most important attribute, while technical challenge takes second place honors. A feeling of accomplishment garnered the most responses. At the end of a hard day, many of us take satisfaction in knowing that we did something of value.

Perhaps a feeling of accomplishment is the reason that nearly all of the quality professionals that responded to the survey indicated that they are either moderately or highly satisfied with their jobs. That may be the reason so many are staying in the profession; almost two-thirds of the respondents have been in their career for more than 15 years.

On a recent trip to Caterpillar’s Mossville Engine Center (Mossville, IL), most of the workers in the plant seemed happy to be there. As a matter of fact, some folks I met with had come out of retirement to return to jobs that they missed, and because they had “already played enough golf.”

What would make you come out of retirement? Would it be solely for the money or the feeling of accomplishment? Would other factors influence your decision? Send your comments to [email protected].